“We’re not talking about a few knots here or there. It was significantly below the 137 knots” required for the approach, NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in describing data taken from the cockpit and flight data recorders. “We do hope to interview the crew members within the next few days.”
Hersman said the cockpit recorder revealed that seven seconds before impact there was a call to increase the plane’s speed. Three seconds later a “stick shaker” — a violent vibration of the control yoke intended to be a warning to the pilot — indicated the plane was about to stall. Just 11
2 seconds before impact, a crew member called out to abort the landing.
Hersman said her agency was a long way — perhaps months — from reaching a conclusion on what caused the crash. But with Asiana insisting there was no mechanical failure, the data from the flight recorders showing the plane far below appropriate speed and the fact that the pilots were controlling the plane in what is called a “visual approach,” the available evidence Sunday suggested the crew was at fault.
On Monday, Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyomin said that Lee Gang-guk, the pilot in control of the Boeing 777, had little experience flying that kind of plane. She told the Associated Press that it was the pilot’s first time landing in San Francisco and that he had nearly 10,000 hours flying other planes but only 43 hours on the 777.
Two Chinese teenagers were killed and scores of passengers were injured just before noon Saturday when the Boeing 777 airliner struck a sea wall at the end of the runway tail first and skidded about 2,000 feet before catching fire.
Authorities said the two girls were thrown from the plane onto the runway, and the Associated Press reported Sunday night that the San Francisco coroner was investigating whether one died after being run over by an emergency vehicle rushing to the plane.
At least eight passengers remained in critical condition at two hospitals Sunday, officials said. Six of them were at San Francisco General Hospital, where the chief of trauma surgery, Margaret Knudson, said that some of the 53 patients taken to the emergency room suffered minor burns or injuries caused by seat belts or from slamming into other seats. Those still in critical condition had head injuries, internal bleeding or fractured spines.
“We are used to these types of injuries, just not used to seeing them all at once,” Knudson said.
Hersman said the seven-year-old plane was equipped with current navigation tools to assist landings, including recent advances in GPS technology.